19 Years Later Irving-Based Exxon Pays For Valdez Disaster

First settlement payments arrive.

Tuesday, Dec 9, 2008  |  Updated 12:25 PM CDT
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19 Years Later Irving-Based Exxon Pays For Valdez Disaster

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19 years after the Exxon Valdez disaster ruined the Alaska shore line, settlement checks are in the mail.

Plaintiffs in the Exxon Valdez lawsuit are starting to receive their settlement money, nearly 20 years after the tanker spilled 11 million gallons of crude into Prince William Sound.

The first settlement payments, in the form of direct deposits, began hitting bank accounts this week.

Paper checks are expected to start going out next week.

Most amounts range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, but some exceed $100,000.

All payments also are minus 22 percent to pay lawyers who pressed the class action lawsuit.

Judge H. Russel Holland last month ordered the release of $151 million of the negotiated $383 million settlement stemming from a lawsuit filed in the nation's worst oil spill. The remainder will be paid later.

The money will be distributed to nearly 33,000 commercial fishermen and others who sued Exxon after the 1989 spill of crude in Prince William Sound.

The tanker Exxon Valdez on March 23, 1989, hit Bligh Reef and spilled nearly 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound.

A jury in 1994 awarded plaintiffs $5 billion. That was cut in half by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court in late June, by a 5-3 vote, reduced the total to $507 million.

"Everybody's very disgusted because of the process and the whacking we got from Exxon and the Supreme Court," said Homer fisherman Frank Mullen. "Nobody's thrilled, but nobody's going to send the check back, either."

Interest calculated since 1994 would add an estimated $488 million, essentially doubling awards. Exxon contends it does not have to pay interest.

 

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